“There is nothing like returning to a place that remains unchanged to find the ways in which you yourself have altered.” – Nelson Mandela
This is such a powerful quote. So many times in my life I have reflected on where I am compared to where I’ve been, but other times the change seems to find me.
Back in 2011, I had exactly that kind of experience. Toby and I were feeling a significant shift in our lives. We were beginning to embrace a strong change in our hearts that had been occurring over the past several years. It all began with my diagnosis with Hodgkins Lymphoma back in 2009. It came out of nowhere. Sitting in the ER being told that I was probably facing cancer was such a huge moment for us. For me, my thoughts were almost entirely of my children. Would I die? At ages 1 and 2, would they even remember me? How could I reconcile with the possibility that I would never help Emma pick out her wedding dress? How could I die without meeting my grandchildren? How could I not be there to watch the kids’ friendship grow? Life went from coasting on happiness to reality in a millisecond.
Thankfully, I beat Hodgkins and have moved on with life. But that’s just it – I’ve never truly “moved on”. That phrase implies that you’re leaving the experience behind and I haven’t. I now carry that with me every day. Not in a sorrowful way, but in so far as having cancer has focused my view of the world. There was a meaning, a gratitude, a depth that was more developed than it had ever been before.
As we closed 2010, I had the profound experience of adding birth photography to my repertoire. I fell in love with it immediately and as I talked with Toby about why I loved it, we began to discuss what it truly was about photography that we held dear. We discovered how much my experience with cancer had changed how we felt about being photographers. Our passion for creating emotional, deep images that would hold meaning for generations poured out of us. We knew that photography was no longer just a passion, it was our calling. We felt that we’d begun to discern God’s plan for us.
2011 was our journey to really figure out where exactly God wanted us to be. Over the course of that year, we tried more than ever to keep our hearts open to what He had in store for us… and in doing so, we noticed a shift in our lives. We took risks. We put ourselves out there and tried things we hadn’t before – both with our business and our family. We took our first family vacation. We stopped answering emails 24/7. I started saying “no” when I felt like our schedule couldn’t take any more. We rented our first studio space. We started family traditions. We started taking pictures of ourselves with the kids rather than just taking pictures of the kids. Our love deepened. Our faith deepened. Our hearts experienced profound gratitude for every. single. breath.
When your job is to capture something through a lens controlled by your point of view, a major shift in your life is bound to translate into your photographs. And it did. We almost completely cut out what we began to see as “artificial poses” and started to encourage our couples and families to simply be together. We were in awe of the genuine nature of what was unfolding in front of our lenses and we immediately noticed an added authenticity in our images – something we’d been craving for years.
We were experiencing for the first time what it was like to put our true selves into our artwork. It felt amazing.
As 2011 ended, Toby and I made concrete plans to integrate this growth in ourselves into our business. We wanted people to have a sense of who we were even before they spoke with us for the first time. In that spirit, we decided to go “all in” and change our name to something that would speak about us and what we hold dear. It’s a huge risk to leave Varland Photography behind, but deep down we both know that this is where God was leading us… so we’re trusting Him.
“There is nothing like returning to a place that remains unchanged to find the ways in which you yourself have altered.”
That’s where we are today. It speaks to our “now” so poignantly.
Over two years later here we are. In just a few days, we’re going to launch our new brand. Our family, our love for each other, our photography business – at their core they’re technically the same – the same four people, the same marriage, and the same photography business. But the nature of them has changed. They’ve all grown and deepened in ways that we never could have imagined. Over these last two years, we’ve seen first hand what trusting God and embracing the change in yourself can do. And now we get to share it with you.
I have to confess, I’m a little scared. Never before have I felt so vulnerable to our clients, friends, fellow photographers, and anyone else who will experience this new brand of ours. Never before have our clients been able to see into the depths of what makes us who we are and why we so dearly love what we do.
But so much greater than the fear that comes with being vulnerable, is the joy and gratitude that we feel. We cannot even begin to express how excited to share this with you.
So on February 3rd, we launch.
We hope you’ll be a part of it.